Konya: Dervishes diversity and delicious dishes
Konya, one of the first settlements in human history and the repository of each civilization that inhabited it, is a center of Islamic loving tolerance that spread through the world like ripples from a drop of water. Its trove of historical treasures makes the city seem like a giant museum.
It is said that the name “Konya” comes from the word “icon.” There are various rumors surrounding the name. One of the stories has it that a monument was built in honor of the person who killed a dragon that had long been haunting the city, and a picture that depicts the event is carved onto it. The name given to this monument is İkonion, which turned into Icconium over time.
In the subsequent ages, it took the names of Roman emperors and became Claudiconium, Colonia Selia and Augusta Iconium. Mentioned as “Tokonion” in Byzantine sources, the city gradually evolved into Konya after Ycconium, Conium, Stancona, Conia, Cogne, Cogna, Konien and Konia before finally becoming Konya.
Possessing innumerous historical and natural works and sites, Konya is also famous for the Islamic saints and scholars that number its former inhabitants. The city has been inhabited since 7,000 B.C. and is one of the oldest settlements in Turkey.
Reaching Konya — a city of nature, faith and culture — is not as difficult as one might think. Konya has long been on the route of many important trade caravans, and it was one of the most important commercial and accommodations centers of the Silk Road. With almost no surrounding mountains, Konya is a transportation crossroads on Turkey’s highway system. The city boasts seven main highways and one airport, and there are international tours that take foreign visitors on their way to this remarkable place.
The wonder of Konya, though, isn’t just in the arrival. Visitors to Konya will find a wide array of hotels to accommodate them for the duration of their stay. Visitors of all income levels can find a hotel to fit their budget, and there are many 4 and 5-star hotels. Some stand-outs are Rixos Konya, which is 13 kilometers from the Konya Airport, 15 kilometers from the city center and 6 kilometers from the bus station and within walking distance from the city tram, the Dedeman Hotel & Convention Center located at the city center, the Bera Hotel and the Selçuklu Hotel in the Selçuklu district.
Muslim Sufi Saint Mevlana
Most of Konya’s tourists come the first time to visit the shrine of Muslim Sufi Saint Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. However, it is said that Konya’s delicious cuisine gives them another reason to come back. The Konya kitchen is considered a cornerstone of modern Turkish cuisine.
The incredible food culture in Konya encompasses dish types, methods of cooking, table orders, service methods and seasonal foods. It is a testament to the superiority of Konya cuisine that the first chef to ever receive a monument was from Konya.
This food culture started developing in the 14th century, particularly due to the influence of the Mevlevi order of dervishes, who had a special system of using the kitchen in the dervish convent and who had special prayers to recite while cooking the dishes.
Once their stomachs are full tourists are now ready to tour the city. The first stop is the elegant shrine of Rumi, whose famous invitation to humanity is “Come, come whoever you are; an unbeliever, a fire-worshipper, a pagan; even if you have broken your vow a thousand times. Come to repent; our door is not one of desperation…”
His tomb was closed for about a year after dervish lodges and convents were closed and all religious activities were banned by the state in November 1925, and then was reopened as a museum in 1926. It is the second-most visited place Turkey following Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.
Those coming to visit Mevlana Rumi’s tomb listen to the story of the reed flute (nay), which laments its banishment from its homeland, and find themselves in a time machine endowed with a great many items belonging to the Mevlevi Sufi tradition. In the museum, there is the sarcophagus of Rumi (d.1273), and 65 other sarcophagi, most of which belong to the sheikhs who succeeded him in the Mevlevi lineage.
There is also a hall (sema-khana) where the whirling rites were held, a mosque (masjid) where the five daily prayers were prayed and the dervish cells where the dervishes would stay and fulfill their supererogatory duties in private. All sections of the Mevlana Museum can visited online on www.360tr.com or www.konya.bel.tr.
The Mevlana Museum plays a great role in attracting a large number of foreign visitors from as diverse places as the US and Japan to what would otherwise remain a small, ordinary Anatolian town. It was visited by nearly 1.4 million people last year.
It attracts many domestic visitors from the metropolitan cities of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Bursa and Antalya. Most visitors come to Konya in December, the anniversary of Mevlana’s death on Dec. 17, 1273. The “Reunion Celebrations,” held in the first two weeks of December until the 17th of the month, are attended by a great many people who make reservations months before and fill the surrounding hotels.
Apart from the Mevlana Museum, other famous museums of Konya are the İnce Minare Medresesi, where stone and wooden works are exhibited; the Sırçalı Medrese, where tombstones are exhibited; the Karatay Museum, where china items are exhibited and the Ethnography Museum. Konya is a home to a large number of historical buildings such as inns, caravanserais, mosques, and madrassas, as it was the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. These places exhibit an extraordinary stone craftsmanship.
The nine-millennia-old ancient ruins of Çatalhöyük settlement in the district of Çumra is also another major tourist attraction. The remains of the settlement, discovered in Çatalhöyük, are suspected to be one of humanity’s first houses.
Another proof of the cultural diversity of Konya is the Aya Elana Church, which is 7 kilometers from the city center. The story of the church takes place 327 years after the birth of Jesus. Helena, the mother of Byzantine Emperor Constantine, happened to visit Konya on her way to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She was impressed by the churches in Konya, some of which dating back to the first and second centuries, and decided to build a church in Sille. She built the church in the name of Mihail Arhonkolas and attended the inauguration ceremony in person. The church is currently undergoing restoration, which is carried out by the Regional Directorate of Charitable Foundations.
Karahöyük and Kilistra
Other tourist attractions in Konya include the Eflatunpınar Pool and the Hittites Monument, both of which are in the district of Beyşehir; the Seljuk Kubad-Abad Palace built in 1236 by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I, which is also in Beyşehir, and Karahöyük and Kilistra. Also in the Halkapınar district, there is the İvriz Kaya Relief, which is generally acknowledged as the first agricultural monument in the world. The ancient relief, made around 800 B.C. and dating back to the Tuvana Kingdom, is located at the source of the İvriz Stream, fed by the melting snow from the Taurus Mountains.
Apart from its historical beauty, Konya also has many lakes. Lake Meke and Lake Beyşehir, which is the biggest freshwater lake in Turkey, captivate their visitors. Meke is a crater lake and is estimated to have formed as a result of a volcanic explosion that occurred 5 million years ago. Unfortunately, it is at risk of drying up because of global warming. It is mostly visited by Turkish tourists.
In addition to all these sites, Konya’s Akşehir district is the birthplace of the famous Nasreddin Hodja, a folk figure whose legendary wit has amused millions. Lake Akşehir, the famous scene where Hodja was seen trying to get the water yeasted to make yogurt, has completely dried up because of global warming.
Lake Beyşehir is a prominent location for hunting. Sunset tours are organized on the lake, which is a must-see, particularly with the Anamas Mountains and the forest surrounding the lake. The lake has more than 30 islets and enchants visitors.
Konya is also trying to develop a market for spelunking. Among popular nearby caves are the Balatini Cave in the Derebucak district, which is 1,830 meters long; the Körükini Cave, 1,250 meters long; the Suluin, Sakaltutan and Susuz Caves; the Tınaztepe Cave in Seydişehir district and the Pınarbaşı Cave located south of Lake Beyşehir.
The best nearby picnicking places are Sille, Akyokuş, Hatıp, Çayırbağı, Bulumiye, Dutlukırı, Apa and the surroundings of the Altınapa Dam and Kızılören are the most beautiful picnicking places. Another beautiful spot are the promenades of Konya, where a great number of congresses, seminars, panels, conferences and social, cultural, and scholarly activities are held by countless organizations.
Alaaddin Mosque, the first Seljuk work of art, which dates back to 12th century, is a unique structure thanks to its being built and rebuilt over the centuries, creating an architectural patchwork.
On the magnificent pulpit of the first mosque, made of ebony tree and dating back to 1155, there are epitaphs of Sultan Mesut and Kılıçaslan II and the names of Master Mengümberti on them. Two different architectural periods are represented in the mosque, which is thought to have been constructed in accordance to the superiority of its pulpit as the most ancient Seljuk work of art.
The best way to conclude a tour of Konya is to climb the hill on which the mosque is located to get an outstanding panoramic view. From here you can bid farewell to the city until the next time you visit.